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Published on June 17th, 2008 | by Sarah Lozanova

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10% of U.S. Electricity From Solar by 2025

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June 17th, 2008 by  


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Solar energy currently generates .1% of the electricity used in the U.S. According to a study released today, this will change rapidly as the cost of electricity increases and the cost of solar energy drops.

The Utility Solar Assessment Study produced by Clean Edge and Co-op America finds that solar energy is already reaching cost parity with conventional sources in some areas of the U.S. where electric rates are highest. By 2015, this will be achieved in many more areas, including Boston, San Diego, and New York. By 2025, cost parity will be achieved throughout the U.S.

The implications of this are huge. The U.S. solar photovoltaic market now relies heavily on state incentives to lower the cost of solar energy. Many people utilize solar energy because it is “the right thing to do” or businesses like the positive publicity solar brings.

Unique Advantages of Solar Electricity

Solar energy does not have fuel costs, like power generated from coal, natural gas, oil, or nuclear energy. The maintenance costs of solar are relatively low , it can generate electricity at the point of use, and emits no carbon. Solar is ideally suited to produce peak electricity, when demand is highest on the power grid and utility companies pay the highest rates. This is also where there is the greatest growth in electricity demand.

“The daily and seasonal variation in grid load in the United States matches solar availability,” said John O’Donnell, executive vice president of Ausra. Solar effectively generates electricity when the rates and demand are the highest.

Action is Needed to Advance Widespread Use of Solar Energy

Solar Companies

Large-scale use of solar energy depends on prices dropping to $3 per peak watt of electricity by 2018, according to the study. This involves quickly implementing advanced technologies in a cost-effective manner. Solar technology needs to be easier to install, thus reducing installation costs and other installations barriers.

Utility Companies

Utilities have become more and more interested in solar energy. California is a great example, where many utilities have signed purchase agreements for solar plant output. The U.S. will also need trained workers, which is another opportunity for utilities to take the lead.

A large investment in solar energy is needed for 10% of U.S. electricity to be generated by solar energy by 2025. Utilities will need to invest between $26 and $33 billion per year, a pretty hefty sum. To put this number in perspective, utilities invested $70 billion in 2007 on new power plants and transmission and distribution centers.

Solar Regulation and Policy

There is currently a 30% commercial tax credit for solar energy, but it is set to expire at the end of the year. There are purchase agreements for 3.2 gigawatts of concentrated solar power during 2007, but these solar power plants cannot be constructed before the tax credit expires. A long-term extension of the renewable energy tax credit is needed for large-scale use of solar energy. Many states also have renewable portfolio standards, but a national renewable portfolio standard would also help strengthen the industry.

Sarah Lozanova is passionate about the new green economy and is a regular contributor to environmental and energy publications and websites, including Energy International Quarterly, ThinkGreen.com, Triple Pundit, Green Business Quarterly, Renewable Energy World, and Green Business Quarterly. Her experience includes work with small-scale solar energy installations and utility-scale wind farms. She earned an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School and is a co-founder of Trees Across the Miles, an urban reforestation initiative.

Related Posts on Solar Energy

Solar Thermal Electricity: Can it Replace Coal, Gas, and Oil?

Senate Coalition Introduces Clean Energy Tax Package

Solar Panels and the Quest for $1/Watt

Clean Energy Intro: Solar Businesses

4 Things to Consider Before Going Solar

Photo Credit: Solar Service Inc of Illinois

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About the Author

is passionate about the new green economy and renewable energy. Sarah's experience includes work with small-scale solar energy installations and utility-scale wind farms. She earned an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School and is a co-founder of Trees Across the Miles, an urban reforestation initiative. When she can escape the internet vortex, she enjoys playing in the forest, paddling down rivers, or twisting into yoga poses.



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  • http://atomicinsights.blogspot.com Rod Adams

    Matthew:

    How many HVDC lines are in operation in the continental United States? How much does it cost to build HVDC per mile?

    The Wikipedia article that you pointed to offered a hint – a 40 km 8 GW line under the English Channel is estimated to have cost $2 billion (a billion UK pounds).

    The article also mentions that HVDC is not appropriate for distributed sources that need a lot of taps into the line – it is best used when there is a very large power source that is a long way from a distant load center. That does not sound like it would work well for solar until such time as there are GW sized arrays. Today, the largest arrays in the world are at least one order of magnitude smaller than that.

  • http://atomicinsights.blogspot.com Rod Adams

    Matthew:

    How many HVDC lines are in operation in the continental United States? How much does it cost to build HVDC per mile?

    The Wikipedia article that you pointed to offered a hint – a 40 km 8 GW line under the English Channel is estimated to have cost $2 billion (a billion UK pounds).

    The article also mentions that HVDC is not appropriate for distributed sources that need a lot of taps into the line – it is best used when there is a very large power source that is a long way from a distant load center. That does not sound like it would work well for solar until such time as there are GW sized arrays. Today, the largest arrays in the world are at least one order of magnitude smaller than that.

  • http://beyondzeroemissions.org Matthew Wright

    Zippy-you may be an Electrical Engineer by trade – but unfortunately you’re not very up with latest Grid Supply technology. High Voltage DC power lines can cover large distances with minimal losses. 3% per 1000km. These are available from Swiss/Swedish industrial Giant ABB.

    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HVDC

    In other words, you can send Wind from Canada and the south of the USA into load centres with minimal loss.

    You can send Solar from Arizona, California, Texas, Florida and Nevada all over continental United States.

  • http://beyondzeroemissions.org Matthew Wright

    Zippy-you may be an Electrical Engineer by trade – but unfortunately you’re not very up with latest Grid Supply technology. High Voltage DC power lines can cover large distances with minimal losses. 3% per 1000km. These are available from Swiss/Swedish industrial Giant ABB.

    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HVDC

    In other words, you can send Wind from Canada and the south of the USA into load centres with minimal loss.

    You can send Solar from Arizona, California, Texas, Florida and Nevada all over continental United States.

  • http://beyondzeroemissions.org Matthew Wright

    Zippy-you may be an Electrical Engineer by trade – but unfortunately you’re not very up with latest Grid Supply technology. High Voltage DC power lines can cover large distances with minimal losses. 3% per 1000km. These are available from Swiss/Swedish industrial Giant ABB.

    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HVDC

    In other words, you can send Wind from Canada and the south of the USA into load centres with minimal loss.

    You can send Solar from Arizona, California, Texas, Florida and Nevada all over continental United States.

  • Fred

    Check out these US Carbon Footprint stats, an interactive United States Carbon Footprint table, illustrating Greenest States to Cities. This site has all sorts of stats on individual State & City energy consumptions, demographics and much more down to your local US City level…

    http://www.eredux.com/states/

  • Fred

    Check out these US Carbon Footprint stats, an interactive United States Carbon Footprint table, illustrating Greenest States to Cities. This site has all sorts of stats on individual State & City energy consumptions, demographics and much more down to your local US City level…

    http://www.eredux.com/states/

  • Fred

    Check out these US Carbon Footprint stats, an interactive United States Carbon Footprint table, illustrating Greenest States to Cities. This site has all sorts of stats on individual State & City energy consumptions, demographics and much more down to your local US City level…

    http://www.eredux.com/states/

  • http://www.brightfuture.us Tim

    The energy generating potential of solar power can be greatly increased using Concentrator Photovoltaic (CPV) systems. In the past these systems have required too much space to be really feasible in a widespread setting. But a new design has been developed that is much more efficient. Read the article, here at http://www.brightfuture.us.

  • http://www.brightfuture.us Tim

    The energy generating potential of solar power can be greatly increased using Concentrator Photovoltaic (CPV) systems. In the past these systems have required too much space to be really feasible in a widespread setting. But a new design has been developed that is much more efficient. Read the article, here at http://www.brightfuture.us.

  • Sarah Lozanova

    Another great website for solar incentives in the US is http://www.dsireusa.org

  • http://www.mehrsolar.com/lonestar Steve

    Sarah:

    Thanks for bringing the Solar Industry to light in your article above. Solar Systems are much more affordable now and your readers can learn about all of the state and utility company rebates and incentives for Solar Panels and Solar Systems on my website http://www.mehrsolar.com/lonestar.

  • http://www.mehrsolar.com/lonestar Steve

    Sarah:

    Thanks for bringing the Solar Industry to light in your article above. Solar Systems are much more affordable now and your readers can learn about all of the state and utility company rebates and incentives for Solar Panels and Solar Systems on my website http://www.mehrsolar.com/lonestar.

  • Ryan

    I happen to know that negotiations are going on between the government and the utilities here in California to actually DOUBLE the percentage of power from Green technology in the next few decades. They will do it though at the expense of making it easier to erect power lines, install solar panels, wind towers, and other power stations.

  • Ryan

    I happen to know that negotiations are going on between the government and the utilities here in California to actually DOUBLE the percentage of power from Green technology in the next few decades. They will do it though at the expense of making it easier to erect power lines, install solar panels, wind towers, and other power stations.

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  • St.Eligius

    @Uncle B

    Before we develop the deserts there is all of the commercial and residential roof space (space that is wasted) that could go to work collecting solar energy both in electrical (photovoltaic) and heat forms (a nice heat exchanger and heat sink connected to the back of the solar cell). Combine that with a passive geothermal system (something only one with a large yard can do) we will be able to minimize the impact on our sunny arid ecosystem.

  • St.Eligius

    @Uncle B

    Before we develop the deserts there is all of the commercial and residential roof space (space that is wasted) that could go to work collecting solar energy both in electrical (photovoltaic) and heat forms (a nice heat exchanger and heat sink connected to the back of the solar cell). Combine that with a passive geothermal system (something only one with a large yard can do) we will be able to minimize the impact on our sunny arid ecosystem.

  • St.Eligius

    @Uncle B

    Before we develop the deserts there is all of the commercial and residential roof space (space that is wasted) that could go to work collecting solar energy both in electrical (photovoltaic) and heat forms (a nice heat exchanger and heat sink connected to the back of the solar cell). Combine that with a passive geothermal system (something only one with a large yard can do) we will be able to minimize the impact on our sunny arid ecosystem.

  • Zippy

    As a electrical engineer by schooling, I applaud the solar movement, but the notion that we could build a large solar array in SW USA still needs to have the transmission issue resolved…i.e. the longer the transmission, the more energy the lines themselves use…after a couple of hundred miles, it’s basically consumed (via resistance and shed as heat )

    This is one of the many reasons coal/gas/nuclear etc plants are built right on top of the communities they service….

    I dont think the generation is the issue, but rather the transmission to were it’s needed…

    Any ideas ?

  • Zippy

    As a electrical engineer by schooling, I applaud the solar movement, but the notion that we could build a large solar array in SW USA still needs to have the transmission issue resolved…i.e. the longer the transmission, the more energy the lines themselves use…after a couple of hundred miles, it’s basically consumed (via resistance and shed as heat )

    This is one of the many reasons coal/gas/nuclear etc plants are built right on top of the communities they service….

    I dont think the generation is the issue, but rather the transmission to were it’s needed…

    Any ideas ?

  • Zippy

    As a electrical engineer by schooling, I applaud the solar movement, but the notion that we could build a large solar array in SW USA still needs to have the transmission issue resolved…i.e. the longer the transmission, the more energy the lines themselves use…after a couple of hundred miles, it’s basically consumed (via resistance and shed as heat )

    This is one of the many reasons coal/gas/nuclear etc plants are built right on top of the communities they service….

    I dont think the generation is the issue, but rather the transmission to were it’s needed…

    Any ideas ?

  • http://peswiki.com/index.php/Review:Alcohol_can_be_a_Gas James

    We could generate all our transport needs with industrial hemp in 4 years! Using only 5% of unusable farmland. Read all about it here

    http://peswiki.com/index.php/Review:Alcohol_can_be_a_Gas

    Screw the oil companies!!! Screw the Middle East Oil Monopolies and their Dubai towers!

  • http://peswiki.com/index.php/Review:Alcohol_can_be_a_Gas James

    We could generate all our transport needs with industrial hemp in 4 years! Using only 5% of unusable farmland. Read all about it here

    http://peswiki.com/index.php/Review:Alcohol_can_be_a_Gas

    Screw the oil companies!!! Screw the Middle East Oil Monopolies and their Dubai towers!

  • k

    so we will see an increase of .00% ? you know, seeing how .1% and .10% are the same, har har.

  • http://ooyes.net web design company

    By 2025? How unimpressive.

  • http://ooyes.net web design company

    By 2025? How unimpressive.

  • Uncle B

    If the U.S. had decided to be a moral people, and leaving Iraqi oil alone, decided to develop the South Western deserts, with the technology of the times, solar/thermal installations, for the same amount of money as that war cost, today we would be tapping into the largest, renewable, sustainable, energy source the world has ever known. It would have paid every energy bill in the U.S.A. for maintenance fees only, FOREVER! It is an oil well that can never run dry! After the millions of murders, and billions of dollars borrowed from our children’s futures and spent, with thousands of our own and others maimed and disfigured for life, millions of families utterly destroyed, ours and theirs, we are no closer to Iraqi oil production than the Iraqis are!

    The next time you hear a blithering idiot spoiled brat drunken drug addict rich little daddie’s boy sociopath stand at a microphone and threaten your safety with someone else’s weapons, remember what you lost America, remember, and weep!

  • Uncle B

    If the U.S. had decided to be a moral people, and leaving Iraqi oil alone, decided to develop the South Western deserts, with the technology of the times, solar/thermal installations, for the same amount of money as that war cost, today we would be tapping into the largest, renewable, sustainable, energy source the world has ever known. It would have paid every energy bill in the U.S.A. for maintenance fees only, FOREVER! It is an oil well that can never run dry! After the millions of murders, and billions of dollars borrowed from our children’s futures and spent, with thousands of our own and others maimed and disfigured for life, millions of families utterly destroyed, ours and theirs, we are no closer to Iraqi oil production than the Iraqis are!

    The next time you hear a blithering idiot spoiled brat drunken drug addict rich little daddie’s boy sociopath stand at a microphone and threaten your safety with someone else’s weapons, remember what you lost America, remember, and weep!

  • Sarah Lozanova

    Those are humans using a crane hoist panels onto the roof of an apartment building.

  • Churry Fox

    is that a photo of a human or some kind of puppet?

  • Churry Fox

    is that a photo of a human or some kind of puppet?

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